Tooth Marks and Poop

I’m preparing to leave on a little trip next week. I decided to clean the workshop a little bit to make the place a bit more welcoming when I return. I found this scrap piece of alder in a pile of plane shavings.

If I keep the camera in more or less the same position, move my hand away from the picture and wind back in time about six months you can see the one quilty for the tooth marks:

I have a bad habit of saving all kinds of little bits of wood ”just in case they come in handy” – and often they do – but these toothmarks didn’t make it any easier to throw it in the to-be-burnt-box. Pontus enjoyed gutting plushy toys and gnawing sticks but somehow knew what was scrap and what was not and often made it obvious that he had taken something, as if asking for permission. He smelled like basmati rice.

Not to get too sentimental here, I saw another trace of a dog lying around.

That’s right, it’s poop. Well, technically it’s a polyester casting of a poop, with clay slip brushed on it to make it less shiny and therefore easier to see the shape. This also came from a since deceased dog. Ronja laid it in the yard many years ago. It was such a beautiful piece of shit, I decided not to compost it just yet.

So there I was, on my knees, on the grass, my nose 15 cm (6″) away from a fresh piece of excrement, splashing and blowing plaster in all the crevices. After the plaster had set, I scooped out the poop with various utensils and… I’ll spare you the details. This must have been one of my weirdest moldmaking projects. The result is a bit strange keepsake I guess, but I also had a bigger project in mind.

It was a rather close call that the City of Helsinki didn’t get an upscaled version of this turd in a public park in the new Kalasatama residential area. I took part in an art competition with a piece using this poop as a model (hence the red clay). I continued in the spirit of Claes Oldenburg, playing with scale and banality, adding a little bit of grotesque and flirting with disassociated materials. I got in the top three with my polished stainless steel proposal Poop.

There were four competition areas. You can find the winning proposals and more information on the competition on Helsinki Art Museum website.

April 27, 2017

A Book on Sawing

I found this in my mailbox the other day. It’s an essential addition to the collection of every contemporary man and woman: a book on making planks out of a tree. With hand saws, no less, as you can probably guess from the comically proportioned saw in the cover. Not something you see every day. The man behind the saw is the writer Iichi Hayashi. Coincidentally, the kanji character for the name Hayashi is

which means ‘grove’ or ‘forest’. See the two trees? Or rather the tree trunks sticking out of the ground and the three roots underneath each trunk?

But I digress. The whole title of the book in romaji is Ki o yomu – Edo kobiki, kantan no waza. ‘Kobiki’ were sawyers who cut planks out of logs in Edo period 1603–1868, and possibly before and some time after that before industrialization made their profession obsolete. Roughly translated the title is Reading trees – Edo sawyers, Admiration of technique. It’s quite amazing that there is still a person, if not a few people, with the know-how, and who took the time to put the knowledge in covers.

Here’s a peek of a couple of random pages.

Basic anatomy of an ‘oga’ saw. Literally translated ‘big saw’. Kanji characters have different pronunciations and slightly different meanings depending on context. The kanji for ‘big’ is ‘大’ often pronounced dai and ‘saw’ is ‘鋸’ or nokogiri.

大鋸

But put together they become just oga. Go figure.

A detail of a saw tooth. I’ve seen one or two pictures of such teeth before. I think the hollow round shape at the tip acts as a kind of chip breaker for the wood being cut, curling the chip away from the tooth. It may be explained in the text. There’s just one obvious problem. I spent 10 minutes coming up with a translation for the book title alone. There’s only one way to fix that:

No hidden meaning in the picture.

Back to the book. Here the author is marking out a cut.

I bought the book second hand via Amazon. The previous owner had left a bookmark between the pages. I wonder what “puratonikku sekkusu” or “platonic sex” means… If platonic love is non-sexual love, is platonic sex non-loving sex? Or rather, what is to sex that sex is to love?

I’m sure you’re eager to get your own copy, so here are the details of the book:

林 以一
木を読む―江戸木挽き、感嘆の技
小学館文庫
Printed in Japan
2001
ISBN4-09-411471-8

April 8, 2017

I Found Some Rocks

I was out mountain biking and came across a possible source of iron ore. I took small samples in my pocket.

At home, I carried out some tests on the pieces to determine what minerals I got. Mostly to refresh myself on what I learned in the Making of Money. Looking at these pictures now, I should have put something for scale, a ruler or a banana or something. The biggest pieces are roughly 50 mm / 2″.

By scratching the piece with a steel spike you get a rough measure of the hardness of the mineral on the Mohs scale. Ore minerals are quite soft and can be easily scratched. There are other red rocks that are not iron ore that are hard enough to resist scratching. For example, quartz can be red or can be stained red by iron oxide on the surface but is harder than steel and doesn’t contain iron. Of course, steel comes in many flavours as well and the spike that I used doesn’t feel very hard. I ground it from an old tool, maybe a screwdriver, that I found somewhere.

Scraping the specimen against unglazed porcelain – I used a fuse for this – leaves a streak of powdered mineral. The color of the streak is important. Limonite leaves a yellow, brown or reddish streak and hematite leaves a deeper red color. I think that most of my samples are limonite and one piece is hematite. What I believe to be hematite is the small flaky rock to the right of the fuse. The brightest red streak on the fuse is from that rock. It also partly has a metallic sheen, which is common with hematite.

I touched the rocks with a magnet but didn’t feel any attraction. Hematite and limonite are not magnetic but yet another iron ore, magnetite, perhaps not surprisingly, is. However, if you take a piece of hematite or limonite and heat it bright red, it becomes slightly magnetic. I think some of it converts into magnetite but I am not quite sure what happens. I tried to look it up, but couldn’t really find any sources now. No matter, I decided to try that anyway.

I set up a tiny firebrick “oven” and placed a sample in.

I heated the piece with a gas torch, turning it around with a steel pick to get an even heat througout.

Let it cool.

Now, can I grab it with a magnet?

Yay!

Another sample seemed like it was inflating in the fire. The rocks were still moist since I had just brought them inside. I think the water in the cracks of the rock expanded and caused it to swell. Only a red shell was left intact with sandy texture inside.

Here is the same roasted piece on the right. On the left is the other half of the same rock that I didn’t roast. You can see the different composition on the inside on that one too. The roasted piece turned a much deeper red color, except for the inside which remained pretty much unchanged.

The roasted part is really crumbly. From these close up shots it looks to me like the insides are quartz sand weakly held together. Quartz is common in iron ores, but this seems to have a lot of it. It has a lower melting point than iron and becomes slag in the smelting process. That is normal, but too much is too much. I would try to remove most of it before the smelt. In this case, by picking up the good stuff with a magnet and throwing the quartz out or mixing it in with the clay to make the bloomery itself.

Here’s the flaky bit that I assumed to be hematite, which I broke to pieces after roasting to show the cross section. Seems nice, especially the top surface, but I still don’t have any kind of certainty of the identifications. I’ll go collect some more of this stuff and make a small bloomery again.

March 28, 2017

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